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Hurricane Prep for Ag Producers

Agricultural producers face unique challenges when preparing for and recovering from disasters. With that in mind, we have summarized relevant information from our Disaster Handbook for you. We also offer guidelines and safety tips for restoring damaged businesses to profitable enterprises.

Protecting Farm Buildings

  • Securely close all doors and windows. Try to determine whether the buffeting and force of the wind will break fasteners or hinges.
  • Nail doors and windows shut, if necessary.
  • Nail plywood or boards over large windows and windows with weak sashes.
  • Brace large barn doors and weak walls. As the hurricane passes, the wind direction will change, so use both interior and exterior braces. Place braces on the reinforced section of the door or wall to distribute the bracing effect over a larger area.
  • Check that roof rafters are securely fastened to the wall studding.
  • Use hurricane-rated straps or 2 inches x 6 inches knee braces to secure rafters, if necessary.
  • Check metal roofing and siding for loose nails. If nails don’t tighten when hammered back in, pull them out, use a #12 or #14 metal screw to fill the hole, and re-nail 2 to 4 inches away (Eaves should be nailed every 5 inches.).
  • Do not use heavy machinery to anchor small buildings. Replacing machinery could be more expensive than replacing a building.

Power Failure on the Farm

Poultry and Livestock

  • Ventilate shelter.
  • Clear debris from all vents. Then open vents to facilitate natural air flow. Oxygen will eventually be used up in mechanically ventilated production facilities.
  • Install knock-out panels in poultry facilities for emergency ventilation.
  • Open doors or turn cows outside in dairy facilities.
  • Provide all animals, especially cattle, with plenty of clean water.
  • Your water pump may possibly be driven with a small gasoline engine and a belt. Otherwise you will need to haul water.

Equipment

  • Unplug or turn off all electric equipment to prevent damage when power is restored.

Milk & Cream

  • You can use the intake manifold on the tractor engine as a vacuum to operate milkers that do not have a magnetic pulsator.
  • Request that the dairy pick up milk as soon as possible.
  • Consider adding a standby power generator to handle vital electrical equipment on the dairy.
  • Even if you are short of extra milk storage facilities, do not store milk in stock tanks or other containers such as bathtubs. Dairy plants may not accept milk that has been stored in anything other than regular milk storage containers.
  • Check with your local dairy about the policy regarding emergency storage of milk and cream.
  • Check your tank for souring each time you add milk to it, if you are unable to cool your milk or have it picked up. This check could mean the difference between losing all or only part of your milk supply.

Protecting Livestock

  • When flood conditions occur, non-confined livestock can usually take care of themselves. Do not, however, let them become trapped in low-lying pens.
  • In broad-level flood plains where flood waters are seldom deeper than 3 or 4 feet, construct mounds of soil on which livestock can stay until flood waters recede. Construct mounds from bales of hay for hogs to climb on. (Try to build these mounds where they will not be washed away by fast-flowing water.).
  • Provide feed and water for the livestock. Water is essential. Thirsty animals will try to break out to get to flood waters. If water is in short supply, limit the livestock’s feed intake.
  • If animals are housed with machinery, fasten bales of straw in front of sharp edges and protruding parts such as cutter bars or crank handles. Do not use hay because animals will eat it.
  • Try to cover wooden paddle wheels on combines or choppers, since these parts can be dangerous if partially broken.
  • Block off narrow passageways where animals would be unable to turn around. A few heavy animals in a narrow dead end can be dangerous not only to themselves but also to the buildings in which they are housed.
  • Make provisions to block livestock from any access to herbicides, pesticides and treated seeds. Store such chemicals and seeds where flood waters will not contaminate livestock feed or water.
  • Turn off electricity at the main switch. Livestock could damage electric fixtures, causing fires or electrocutions.
  • If your dairy barn(s) is at risk of flooding, drive cattle out of the barn. During the rapid rise of water, cattle often refuse to leave a barn and may drown if the water rises high enough in the barn.

Farm Cleanup

  • Delay permanent repairs until buildings are thoroughly dry.
  • Spread wet feeds to dry. Avoid feeding wet feeds to livestock unless absolutely necessary.
  • To avoid a fire hazard, move wet hay outside and spread it out to dry.
  • Move livestock to unflooded pastures to prevent disease.
  • Promptly dispose of animal carcasses.
  • Disassemble, clean, dry and lubricate farm machinery. Do not start motors or engines until they are cleaned and reconditioned.
  • Clear and open drains, ditches, channels, small streams and tile drain outlets. Drain floodwater, if possible, from fields.
  • Plug breaks in dikes. Use temporary structures to stop breaks and prevent further high water.
  • Clear debris, especially barbed wire and other materials which could be dangerous to livestock, from lots and fields.
  • Avoid overexertion and strain in lifting and moving heavy objects or loads.
  • When using kerosene, keep away from heat, sparks and open flames.

Adapted and excerpted from:

The Disaster Handbook, UF/IFAS Extension (rev. 11/2003).